Sanders skeptical about calls for presidential commission to investigate VA backlog

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs expressed skepticism in a television interview about proposals to create a presidential commission to examine the enormous backlog of veterans disability claims.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders/Courtesy C-SPAN

Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), said a presidential panel, which has been pushed by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, would likely not help solve the problem, which he said has already been studied thoroughly.

“You bring these people together for 18 more hearings, and in the real world, that slows down the progress you’re making,” Sanders said.

Sanders made his comments during an interview taped Thursday for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” with Greta Brawner, moderator of the show, Juana Summers of Politico and me.

Rep. Jeff Miller, (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation on Thursday to establish an independent task force to investigate the backlog, with members appointed by the Obama administration and Congress.

“We hope to establish a revised evidence-based process that will help VA break its claims backlog once and for all in 2015, just as department leaders have promised,” Miller said in a statement.

In the C-SPAN interview, Sanders also expressed support for Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, who some critics have called on to resign because of the VA’s slow progress toward its goal of eliminating the backlog by 2015. The number of disability claims now stands at 838,000, two-thirds of which have been pending more than 125 days.

Sanders said Shinseki deserves credit for setting the ambitious goal in the first place, and should be given time for a new paperless claims system to take effect.

But Sanders supported calls from House members this week for President Obama to get more involved in resolving a disagreement between the VA and Department of Defense over how to create a seamless system of electronic health records.

“We need far more cooperation,” Sanders said.

“Newsmakers” will be aired Sunday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m Eastern time on C-SPAN.

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